Why You Should Listen to Me

Photo credit: health-and-habitat.com

Photo credit: health-and-habitat.com

If you’re wondering why you should be listening to me, let me be the first to tell you that you shouldn’t  I never intended this blog as an “advice column” and nothing here should be construed as expert advice.

I don’t hold advance degrees in science, medicine, exercise or nutrition.  I don’t host podcasts with evangelists from the low-carb, paleo, raw or nothing-with-a-face communities.  I’m not hawking my latest eBook or meal program for you to follow.  I’m not an expert.  I don’t claim to be.

What I am is a fairly average American male, aged 40-something, of Irish-Scottish descent, raised on meat and potatoes (other vegetables were just overcooked suggestions), who has watched his health begin a gradual but nonetheless alarming decline as his waistline continued to increase.  At my heaviest, I considered myself “functionally obese” – a term I coined when one is heavier than one’s health can tolerate but probably not considered “fat” or “obese” by society at large.  While I may never have owned a piece of clothing that was a size “X” or a pair of pants larger than a 34 inch waist, I still had mobility, stamina and other daily living issues that had slowly, inevitably become such a part of my “norm” that I could no longer sense these things were anything but the norm.

I have a box of old family photos and as I look through them from time to time I see a story being told over and over by each generation.  My family members were thin in their youth, gradually fattening through to middle age until they are elderly, overweight and plagued with a host of metabolic and cognitive conditions that eventually claim their life before they turn 80 years old.  This is particularly true of the men in my family, not one who has successfully lived past his mid-70’s.

I see that story and I don’t want to be part of it.  I want to break the “75 year” barrier (I’d like to break the “95 year” barrier, if my family had one).  So, I embarked on a journey of learning about how the food choices I make impact my health.  I started with low-fat, then low-carb, then some dabbling in Paleo.  I’m still piecing together the puzzle.  I have no answers.  Some things I try seem to work and then stop.  Some things I try never work at all.  Some things have been working and continue to do so.

If I was to offer any advice to you, and I don’t, it would be this:

  • What is right for me is not necessarily right for you (and vice versa).  The moment you try to apply something to a group versus an individual, potentially disastrous results can occur.  Look no farther than the American government’s attempts to provide singular nutrition and dietary guidelines (eat low-fat/high carb) to millions of Americans whose metabolisms are as unique as snowflakes in a blizzard.
  • Hold ideas lightly.  If you’d met me just one year ago, you would have met someone who’d fully embraced a low-fat/high-carb eating style and believed deeply in the theory of calories-in/calories-out.  I exercised daily, I ate lots of “healthy” whole grains and very little fat but still gained weight and was becoming pre-diabetic.  I’ve had to let go of many ideas and beliefs I’ve held as truths for years.  To quote Yoda from Star Wars, “You must unlearn what you have learned”.  There is so much more research to be done in this field, be ready to change and adapt as you learn new things.
  • Eat real food and as close to the originating source as possible.  Is this perhaps just common sense?  The more a food item is handled, processed, protected, enriched, preserved, enhanced, etc… the more potential there is for your body to not cope with it as intended.   The more your animal products are processed in “death camp” conditions, the less healthful their products will be.  If your health declines under stressful conditions, why wouldn’t the same apply to animals?
  • Challenge your doctor.  Always, always, always seek sound advice from medical professionals.  However, remember that doctors are people.  They make mistakes.  It’s also well known that their training in nutrition and diet is very lacking.  Much of what you discover may fly in the face of what little training they’ve had.  Be prepared for significant doubt and even push-back from your doctor.  Remember that to protect them from malpractice litigation, doctors often have to recommend certain courses of treatment (low fat diets, statin drugs) because they are the commonly accepted treatments recommended by government agencies and pharmaceutical companies.   Try sharing what you’re reading or learning with your doctor.  Let you blood chemistry results speak to the efficacy of your eating style.  If your doctor seems uninterested or unwilling to at least explore other treatment options, don’t be afraid to find a new doctor.
  • You are not broken or beholden to disease.  In everything I read and in my own personal experience, I have found that you can make changes to what you eat that have tremendous impacts on your health.  As soon as I stopped eating anything made from grain, digestive and other bodily complaints I’d come to think of as just part of life disappeared.  As soon as I got my insulin under control by limiting carbohydrates and increasing fat consumption, my blood pressure dropped, my cholesterol dropped and my weight dropped as well.  I do think that for some of us, the change has to be more dramatic to illicit the desired response but even if the healthful benefit is small, it’s still worth the change.  If you’re like me, you’ve lived for decades out of balance.  Don’t think a few days of not eating bagels and doughnuts is going to rectify that unbalance.

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